Melanie Perkins

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Melanie Perkins
Perkins in 2019
Born (1987-05-13) May 13, 1987 (age 36)[1]
Perth, Western Australia[2]
EducationUniversity of Western Australia
OccupationTechnology entrepreneur
Years active2007–present
Known forCo-founder and CEO of Canva
(m. 2021)

Melanie Perkins (born 13 May 1987) is an Australian billionaire technology entrepreneur, who is the CEO and co-founder of Canva (with Cliff Obrecht) and owns 18% of the company.[3]

Perkins is one of the youngest female CEOs of a tech start-up valued over A$billion. As of May 2021, Perkins was one of Australia's richest women.[note a][4][5][6]

Early life[edit]

Melanie Perkins was born in Perth, Western Australia. She is the daughter of an Australian-born teacher and a Malaysian engineer of Filipino and Sri Lankan descent.[7] She attended Sacred Heart College,[8] a secondary school located in the northern Perth suburb of Sorrento. At high school, Perkins had aspirations of becoming a professional figure skater and would routinely wake up at 4:30 am to train. By the age of fourteen, she had started her first business, selling handmade scarves at shops and markets throughout Perth.[9] She credits this experience with developing her entrepreneurial drive as ‘she never forgot the freedom and excitement from building a business.’[10]

After high school, Perkins enrolled at The University of Western Australia, majoring in communications, psychology and commerce.[11] At this time, Perkins was also a private tutor for students learning graphic design. She noticed the difficulties students had in learning design programs such as Adobe Photoshop, where it would often take students a semester at university to be introduced to basic features of these complex design programs.[12] Perkins thought there was a business opportunity in making the design process easier.[12] Her idea was to make a design platform where no technical experience was required. She dropped out of university at age 19 to pursue her first business with Cliff Obrecht, Fusion Books.[12]


Fusion Books[edit]

Fusion Books was founded by Perkins and Obrecht in 2007.[12] Fusion Books allowed students to design their own school yearbooks by using a simple drag-and-drop tool equipped with a library of design templates that could be populated with photos, illustrations, and fonts. Originally, Perkins wanted to develop software that made the entire design process easier but due to the competition with large companies and her lack of resources, she concluded ‘it did not seem the logical thing to do’.[12] Perkins's mother was a teacher who would also co-ordinate the school yearbook.[12] Perkins saw how much time was required to design a yearbook and thought the high level of consumer friction would make yearbooks a good niche to test the idea for Canva.[12]

Started in the Duncraig living room of Perkins's mother,[12][13][14] Obrecht would cold call schools in an attempt to get new clients for Fusion Books. Their parents would often help with printing the yearbooks. Over five years, Fusion Books grew into the largest yearbook company in Australia and expanded into France and New Zealand.[7]

Formation of Canva[edit]

Perkins at Web Summit event

Perkins and Obrecht were originally based in Perth. Perkins claims that she was rejected by over 100 local investors in Perth.[7]

In 2011, prominent investor, Bill Tai visited Perth to judge a start-up competition. Perkins and Obrecht pitched Tai the initial idea for Canva over dinner. There were also other venture capitalists present including Rick Baker from Blackbird Ventures.[7] They received no funding but became regular fixtures at gatherings hosted by Tai for investors and start-up founders. Some of these gatherings took place in Silicon Valley where Perkins and Obrecht met Lars Rasmussen, co-founder of Google Maps.[15] He expressed interest in the idea but told the founders to ‘put everything on hold’ until they found a tech team of the calibre required.[7] Rasmussen then became the tech adviser to the business where he introduced Perkins and Obrecht to Cameron Adams, an ex-Google employee with the relevant technical expertise.[16] Adams was initially not interested in joining the business as he was starting his own business called, software attempting to disrupt email.[12] Adams was in Silicon Valley trying to raise funds for his start-up when Perkins sent him another email asking if he wanted to join the business.[12] After that email, he agreed to join Canva, becoming its third founder and chief product officer.[15]

Perkins is the CEO of one of the few ‘unicorn’ start-ups that are profitable.[17] In Nov. 2023, Forbes estimated her net worth at $ 3.6 bln. She remained CEO of Canva, and owned around 18 % of the company.[18] She was named to the Financial Review Rich List of 2023.[19][20]

Women in start-ups[edit]

Controversy surrounds the gender disparity in the technology industry as well as amongst start-ups,[21] with one in four start-ups founded by a woman.[22][23] Perkins is amongst the 2 percent of female CEOs of venture-backed companies.[24] She wrote an article for people who feel like 'they are on the outside' and discussed her journey as a young entrepreneur in order to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to pursue big dreams and concentrate on their goals.[24] Perkins has implemented policies at Canva that eliminate bias in the hiring process, that has resulted in Canva obtaining 41 percent female representation, significantly higher than the industry average of 28 percent.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Perkins took an interest in kite surfing when she discovered many prominent venture capitalists use this as a way to network with founders.[7] She would regularly kite-surf with venture capitalist Bill Tai.[7] Perkins has also travelled the world extensively and credits a trip to India as a life-changing experience.[26]

In 2019, Obrecht proposed to Perkins on a holiday in Turkey's backpacker-friendly Cappadocia region.[27] The engagement ring was $30.[27] The couple have been critical of materialism with Obrecht stating ‘what is the point of hoarding stuff’.[28] They have expressed a desire to donate most of their fortune to charity.[28] Perkins and Obrecht married in January 2021 on Rottnest Island.[29] In November 2021, they joined the Giving Pledge, committing at least half of their fortune to philanthropic purposes.[30]

Net worth[edit]

In 2020 Forbes named Perkins as one of the world's "Top Under 30 of the Decade".[31] Perkins first appeared on The Australian Financial Review Rich List in 2020 with a net worth of A$3.43 billion.[note a][32] As of May 2023, The Australian Financial Review assessed her and Obrecht's joint net worth as A$13.18 billion, on the 2023 Rich List; making them the ninth wealthiest Australians.[33] As of 31 January 2022, Forbes estimated Perkins' personal net worth at A$9.21 billion (US$6.5bn).[34]

Year Financial Review
Rich List[note a]
Australia's 50 Richest
Rank Net worth (A$) Rank Net worth (US$)
2019[35][36] n/a not listed n/a not listed
2020[32] 26 Increase $3.43 billion Increase
2021[4] 10 Increase $7.98 billion Increase
2022[34] 8 Increase $13.80 billion Increase $6.50 billion
2023[33] 9 Decrease $13.18 billion Decrease
Icon Description
Steady Has not changed from the previous year
Increase Has increased from the previous year
Decrease Has decreased from the previous year


  • ^[note a] : Perkins' net worth is assessed in Financial Review Rich List as being held jointly with her spouse and business partner, Cliff Obrecht.


  1. ^ "Erica Baxter tops young female rich list - 9Finance". Retrieved 9 April 2021.
  2. ^ Stanton, Kate; Griffith, Hywel (10 January 2018). "The 30-year-old woman who designed a $1bn business". BBC.
  3. ^ "Profile - Melanie Perkins". Forbes. Retrieved 18 July 2023.
  4. ^ a b Bailey, Michael; Sprague, Julie-anne (27 May 2021). "The 200 richest people in Australia revealed". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 28 May 2021.
  5. ^ Sprague, Julie-ann; Bailey, Michael (7 March 2021). "The nation's richest women revealed". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  6. ^ "Canva prints a new billionaire". Australian Financial Review. 23 June 2020. Retrieved 6 October 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Konrad, Alex. "Canva Uncovered: How A Young Australian Kitesurfer Built A $3.2 Billion (Profitable!) Startup Phenom". Forbes. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  8. ^ "How a Sacred Heart girl built a $1b tech empire". The West Australian. 7 May 2018. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  9. ^ Connelly, Claire (6 October 2015). "From making scarves to building a $165 million tech start-up: Canva's Melanie Perkins". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  10. ^ Zipkin, Nina (12 June 2019). "She Was Told 'No' 100 Times. Now This 31-Year-Old Female Founder Runs a $1 Billion Business". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  11. ^ "Melanie Perkins and Cliff Obrecht". Uniview. The University of Western Australia. 3 November 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Perkins, Melanie (24 August 2020). "21 Questions from Aussie Startups: Highs, lows & lessons learned during Canva's journey so far…". Medium. Retrieved 2 November 2020.[self-published source?]
  13. ^ City of Joondalup (8 September 2020). "Why some of the best business successes have started at WA's home of innovation". Business News. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  14. ^ Boyd, Tony (9 January 2018). "Canva follows Atlassian into the $US1 billion unicorn ranks". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 13 January 2022.
  15. ^ a b "Informit Logout". Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  16. ^ Gilchrist, Karen (9 January 2020). "How a 32-year-old turned a high school yearbook idea into a $3.2 billion business". CNBC. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  17. ^ Kruger, Colin (14 September 2018). "Rare billion-dollar beast: Aussie tech unicorn Canva makes a profit". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  18. ^ "Melanie Perkins". Forbes. Retrieved 30 January 2024.
  19. ^ "AFR Magazine Rich List issue 2023". Australian Financial Review. 25 May 2023. Retrieved 30 January 2024.
  20. ^ Mediaweek (26 October 2023). "Financial Review Young Rich List 2023 reveals green energy, retail and property as the biggest drivers of wealth". Mediaweek. Retrieved 30 January 2024.
  21. ^ "Gender gap in the tech industry". Deloitte Insights. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  22. ^ "Women in US Technology Leadership". Silicon Valley Bank. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  23. ^ Hession, Jane (2009). Women in the Modern Workplace: Gender Barriers to Business Start-ups. Cambridge Scholars. ISBN 978-1-4438-1385-3.
  24. ^ a b "A message for those who feel they're on the outside, from Canva co-founder Melanie Perkins". SmartCompany. 24 September 2018. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  25. ^ "The Companies Making A Difference: Introducing Our Women Leading Tech Advocacy Finalists". B&T. 2 September 2020. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  26. ^ "Canva's CEO on her 'crazy big goal'". Australian Financial Review. 16 August 2019. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  27. ^ a b "Australia's richest 250: Melanie Perkins and the unicorn". The Australian. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  28. ^ a b "Meet the debutants storming up the Rich List". Australian Financial Review. 27 October 2020. Retrieved 2 November 2020.
  29. ^ Waters, Cara (22 February 2021). "Canva co-founder backs Facebook's move to ban news, slams 'stupid' tech regulation". The Sydney Morning Herald. Archived from the original on 23 February 2021. Retrieved 23 February 2021.
  30. ^
  31. ^ Palmer-Derrien, Stephanie (8 January 2020), Canva's Melanie Perkins named one of the world's top founders of the decade, SmartCompany, retrieved 15 November 2020
  32. ^ a b Bailey, Michael; Sprague, Julie-anne (30 October 2020). "The full list: Australia's wealthiest 200 revealed". The Australian Financial Review. Nine Publishing. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  33. ^ a b Bailey, Michael; Sprague, Julie-anne (26 May 2023). "The 200 richest people in Australia revealed". Australian Financial Review. Retrieved 6 June 2023.
  34. ^ a b "Melanie Perkins". Forbes. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  35. ^ Bailey, Michael (30 May 2019). "Australia's 200 richest people revealed". The Australian Financial Review. Nine Publishing. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  36. ^ "2019 Australia's 50 Richest". Forbes Asia. January 2019. Retrieved 28 September 2019.

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